Amidst the fanfare and jubilee of Georgetown Day last week, few students stopped to think about how their celebrated campus came to look the way that it does. But the Hilltop’s blueprint wasn’t developed in a vacuum.

In 1990 Georgetown approved an ambitious campus master plan that included the construction of seven athletic fields, a tunnel linking Georgetown to Foggy Bottom,16 acres of green space and an advanced renewable energy system. But administrators ditched the plan soon after it was implemented, for reasons that those involved say were mostly aesthetic and financial, however, certain supporters of the plan insist the reasons were more personal.

Now, without any of the proposed additions made, many supporters of the 1990 plan say that the university missed a crucial opportunity to keep millions of dollars in its pocket and make Georgetown a beacon for urban campus design and a national leader in energy efficiency.

Leslie Dean Price, who served as Georgetown’s head architect from 1970-1990 and was the leading mind behind the 1990 campus master plan when it was developed in the mid-1980s, said that the energy components of the plan could have generated Georgetown at least $30 million annually in revenue, while saving more than $18 million in utilities costs. The plans called for a 7.5 megawatt renewable-energy power plant that would have been able to generate much of the university’s power, process its solid waste, hazardous industrial waste and sewage and produce numerous marketable by-products – such as medical oxygen, methanol, water and premium power – that proponents wanted to sell to other institutions.

Price, who remained at the university as assistant to the president for federal relations until 2001, said that he left his position as university architect in frustration after the plans were abandoned. He said that soon after Fr. Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., became the university president in 1989, the university’s top administrators, including John J. DeGioia, then the dean of student affairs, and Georgetown’s Board of Directors, lost interest in the 1990 plan and were not responsive to the protests of those who supported it as they began working on the next 10-year plan that was implemented in 2000.

“It was like talking to the wall,” he said. “They had no idea of what was involved because they did not listen, and really, they did not want to They didn’t professionally look into this.”

But Karen Frank, the university’s vice president for facilities and student housing, who was a strong proponent of the 2000 plan, said that the 1990 plan was ditched because administrators felt that it was did not fit in with the university’s traditional aesthetic.

“The concept we decided to accept was that of a quadrangle,” she said. “The more traditional university layout that you would find at Oxford, for example.”

Robert Stern, founder of Robert A.M. Stern Architects, which developed the 2000 campus plan, said that he did not think that the university had enough money to fund such a large-scale project as the 1990 version, which was a significant reason for the decision to scrap the plan.

“I think the problem with that plan was that it was hard to realize on a piece-by-piece basis,” he said. “Georgetown could not afford all the new construction all at once.”

But others weren’t sure whether the motivations for ditching the 1990 campus plan were so cut and dry.

Fr. William George, S.J., who worked as assistant to the university president for federal relations when the 1990 plan was abandoned, said that raising money would not have been much of a problem.

The university would not have had to provide most of the money for the project, George said, because it could have obtained the necessary finances from federal grant money and private gifts. According to George, the university had a better track record then of receiving federal money than it does today, as the university received over $1 billion in federal and private donations during his 30-year tenure at Georgetown.

“A lot of people misunderstood it,” said George, who now serves as president of Georgetown Preparatory School. “It would be very expensive to build it all with university money, but . every building in the plan had its own source of federal and private funding.”

And Price, who is now the chairman and director of Equitech International, a company that provides renewable-energy planning and development, agreed that the 1990 plan was likely abandoned for reasons that no one is talking about. He said that Michael Eisner, who was chief executive officer of the Disney Corporation and served on Georgetown’s Board of Directors from 1989-2005, played a key role in lobbying the university to abandon the 1990 campus plan.

Price said that Eisner had a close relationship with Stern, the developer of the 2000 plan, who has designed multiple buildings for Disney and served on Disney’s Board of Directors from 1992-2003, and actively supported him in his efforts in obtaining the commission for the new campus plan. Frank said that O’Donovan, who currently sits on Disney’s Board of Directors, made the decision to appoint Stern, but that many people were involved in the discussions to initiate a new plan.

Price added that DeGioia, who helped oversee the project, supported the decision to ditch the 1990 plan.

“What he did was stab it in the back once it was born. He wanted to be president of the university as the first non-Jesuit, and was gathering all the support he could from the board,” Price said. “He didn’t give a damn about renewable energy.”

University spokesperson Julie Bataille declined to comment on DeGioia’s involvement in discussions.

O’Donovan did not return repeated phone calls requesting comment. Eisner also could not be reached for comment.

Regardless of the motives behind the university’s decision to ditch the 1990 plan, George said that Georgetown did not understand the importance and ingenuity of the plan.

“As you build up energy-providing buildings, you’re not taking power from the power company and they won’t bill you,” George said., “All of Price’s buildings were designed to do that.

“But a prophet is not recognized in his own city,” he added. “Jesus said that. Not enough people at Georgetown recognized the genius of this man.”

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